What were the laws regarding crossing the US/Confederacy "border"?

During the US Civil War, did either side (US or CS) have any laws or policies regarding crossing the border between them, and was it easy to do in practice?

E.g. if I was living in Washington, DC, and wanted to visit a sister who lived at Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, could I simply take a buggy down to the Chain Bridge and cross over (assuming the bridge wasn’t currently bombed), like one can today, or did I need to be processed at a Confederate border checkpoint, then be processed by US Immigration coming back, or were there border crossing laws that were ignored due to the impossibility of enforcement?

Assume that my visit is really to see my sister and not to engage in espionage or warfare.

I don’t know for sure, but I suspect that the United States did not recognize any national border between the USA and the CSA, because the USA did not recognize the legal existence of the CSA. The USA saw the southern states as being in a state of rebellion.

Without recognition of the CSA, there was no way to codify border crossing protocols.

If anything, the borders between states in the Union and adjoining seceding states would simply be closed to prevent the passage of contraband or spies. Trade was not an issue, because one of the main tactics of the USA was to enforce a trade embargo and blockade on the rebelling states.

Tyson’s Corner (McLean/Falls Church), as well as the rest of Fairfax County, was under Union control for most of the war. Warrenton or Culpeper might have been more of a challenge.

Tourists came from Washington to see the first battle of Bull Run.

From the point of view of the Union, of course, there was no such thing as “the Confederate States of America” – they were U.S. states in a state of rebellion. Union-held Virginia, etc., would be seen as U.S. land liberated from the Rebels.

The U. S. Army guarded all roads coming into Washington, DC and surrounding territories. You needed a permit from the Army to enter or leave. People coming in from rebel territory were considered to be de facto spies (and usually were) and so had to get special passes for entry. These were often hard to come by. Even people trying to find prisoners or relatives in hospitals had a hard time gaining entry.

It was war and treated that seriously, at least after it became clear at Bull Run that it was going to be a long horror and not a picnic.

One of the greatest books of American history is the Pulitzer Prize-winning Reveille in Washington, 1860 - 1865, by Margaret Leech, a history of Washington during the war years. A purely wonderful book that to my knowledge is still considered to be best on the subject although it appeared in 1941.

Second this recommendation. I’m so tired of the trope that the South had the better officers because they were descendants of the Cavaliers, were iron-souled Scots-Irish, blah blah blah, but Margaret Leech points to the simple fact that Winfield Scott was a Virginian who ran the army out of his vest pocket for half a century and groomed generations of his fellow Southerners for the best billets.

Jones, Rebel War Clerk’s Diary, makes frequent reference to the numbers of people that were being given passes to proceed to Union territory, often (IHHO) spies.

In short, there wasn’t a border - there was a front. Crosing a front means dealing with picket lines and patrols, not immigration officers.

The OP labors under another misconception–that if there had been a border, it would look like a border today, with immigration stations checking and stamping passports. Nothing could be further from the truth. The United States had virtually no restrictions on immigration until very late in the Nineteenth Century, and if you wanted to enter from Canada or Mexico, you walked in. Or you rode in a wagon or later, a railroad car. Likewise in most of Europe.

Border enforcement meant prevention of smuggling, and since bulk goods could only be shipped by water, it meant customs houses at ports of entry on rivers and harbors. Regarding people, nobody cared.

Paranoia & lynching would be a real possibility.

How likely would it also have been for someone to have been robbed by poorly supplied soldiers towards the end of the war?

The north had great supplies at the end of the war. It was the south that was starving. But no southern forces were anywhere near the north-south border by that time. And both sides were under the strictest of orders not to rob random travelers. I’m not saying that it didn’t happen: everything happens in wartime. It’s just hard to figure out a time and place related to this thread that would make your scenario likely.

It sometimes happened. Most units of the Confederate cavalry were quite gentlemanly and brave, but some of Wheeler’s units or various guerrillas were little more than thieves and murderers with a cheap uniform. They could and did rob people. However, most travellers has little to take anyway: they were desperate people fleeing the fighting and often carried only the clothes on their backs.

I’m sure there were Union soldier who would have done similar things (you get hundreds of thousands of men and you’re sure to get some bad apples), but Union military control was much tighter all through the war, and there was less opportunity for banditry. Of course, many Union commanders were happy to let troops take spoils anyway, at least when they wanted to break the target region’s will to resist. Sherman’s March to the Sea was a light example: the march through South Carolina or Black Dave’s burning of the Shanendoa were harsher ones, though I believe justified.

Further to the point that the ‘border’ was actually a front – or, more accurately, an interlocking set of fronts – does anyone know of useful maps showing the territory under actual Southern control at various points in the war? It’s all very well to say that, e.g., Norfolk was part of Virginia, a Confederate state – but if the North held it firmly, it hardly counts as Cpmfderate, right? I remember seeing a history of North Carolina that pointed out that Wilmington was at one point the only functional Southern port, the others having either been seized or blockaded (a blockade off Cape Fear entailed unusual difficulties). The same book pointed out that North Carolina had never been invaded from the north – both Cornwallis in the Revolution and Sherman in the Civil War having come up from the south.

smiling bandit, that’s why I was trying to figure out a way to answer the question and make it relate to border issues. Of course it’s true that by the end of the war Grant and Sherman and others had embarked on an official policy of punishing the supporters of the rebellion as well as the soldiers themselves. That’s very different from attacking travelers. Who were themselves sometimes robbed or even raped. Modern talk about chivalry hides how desperate and vicious soldiers get after four years of continual warfare as well the poor quality and training of the troops brought into the war by the end to provide cannon fodder.

I still don’t understand exactly what Pushkin was trying to ask. Some clarification would be helpful.

I first saw this at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pa. a few years ago; it’s worth a look. You can pause it for any particular date: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TN85StJ2mTU. The American Heritage book on the Civil War, with text by Bruce Catton, has excellent maps, as does the Geoffrey Ward companion volume to the Ken Burns PBS series The Civil War.

When the Copperhead leader Clement Vallandigham was exiled or sent south in 1863, it was under a flag of truce from the Union lines to the Confederate lines. There were informal truces between the troops from time to time, too, with coffee and tobacco sometimes exchanged. Particularly during the wintertime when there was little fighting, the lines would be pretty well understood by both the troops and the civilians in any given area.

One of President Lincoln’s last official acts, I believe on the afternoon before he was shot at Ford’s Theatre, was writing an order to the effect that passes were no longer required to travel from Washington to Richmond.